Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Computer Science

First Advisor

Randall C. O'Reilly

Second Advisor

Michael Mozer

Third Advisor

James Martin

Abstract

The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is considered as the brain's executive, with multiple functions and this executive role has been studied for a long time. The role of PFC, especially the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), also extends to resolving conflicts during a memory retrieval task. This has also been confirmed in imaging studies that show activations of PFC during a memory retrieval task. A recent study with rats has shown the significance of mPFC in memory retrieval task that involves selecting the right response from competing targets, which is, resolving the conflict among multiple similar choices to make a final decision. To demonstrate the conflict-resolving role of mPFC in a computational paradigm, we put forth a neural network based computational model of the hippocampus and the mPFC. The motivation is to build a model that represents the behavioral results from the experiment conducted by Peters et al., (2013). Our simulations compare the performance of the model when the mPFC is present and absent. Our results show that when the mPFC is absent, the ability to learn multiple conflicting items is impaired. We also investigate to see if the memories that are learnt in absence of mPFC pose any effects on acquisition of new conflicting memories. Results show that the memories encoded without the mPFC did not pose any interference to any new memories that are to be learnt with mPFC. Our results on the whole suggested that mPFC has a critical role in resolving interference in memory encoding and retrieval.

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